Saturday, 12 June 2010

In which dress shopping is anything but joyful.

I tried shopping for a dress today. I tried it four ways, which i will now review:

Online:Soon overwhelmed, no idea how any of this will look and feel on, too much choice but not enough information. I'm one of those people that walks around shops feeling the clothes, testing cloth for thickness, quality, strech etc. so online shopping for me exists by pre defined parameters (ie, I buy stuff online that I've seen and tried on in person)On my own:
I checked Debenhams, dorothy perkins. I was bored by the selection. I didn't try anything on. I tried 3 dresses on in Monsoon. on reflection, these were not too bad. I can't remember properly though, my head is too full of dresses.With a friend:
Clearly the most fun way to do it, obviously choice of friend is important: one who knows my shopping habits well and does not give false compliments, and likes looking at dresses. with her i tried on more dresses, all of them looked pretty cool, and we favoured one in bright orange, which looked well awesome, just not quite the right fit. we re-checked Debenhams, looked in Oasis, and even M&S though we walked straight back out again. On leaving she suggested i try a bridal shop, which was having a sale. With a shop assistant:
By far the most frustrating experience. What size do you wear? she asks, 'fourteen' I say. Ok. What do you like? she asks... I say short in length, bright colours, no V-necks. She eyes my fair colouring, apple shape and chest, and says: I'll see what I can find!

Upon return she brings a wrap around frilly dress in light pink, size 12. it looks like 5os nightwear. It's not really what I had in mind. in fact, it's the opposite of what I had in mind. still, what do I know? I try it on. I look like a fairy. Anyone that knows me will know that my aim in life is not to look like a fairy. 'It's not really what i'm after.' I tell her. I wish I was more assertive. 'I think it looks lovely she said, so feminine!' (erk) I don't want to look 'feminine'. 'Feminine' always sounds like it should be followed by the words 'Hygeine' and 'Product'. The words I want to describe my look include 'fuckin awesome' 'bright' 'funky' and 'bangin' I do NOT want to look 'feminine'. Same goes for 'elegant' 'busty' 'thinner' 'sophisticated' 'mature' 'sweet' 'pretty' and 'shapely'.

I left feeling like poop. This girl spent a good half an hour trying to squeeze me into various hideous contraptions in mauve, pink and other shades for people who are not me.

Listening to other women in the shop, I despaired. there was a lady who was going to be mother-of the-bride in a few months. She looked nearly 60, and was tall and slim, a headmistress of a secondary school, she told the staff. They told her she looked thin, and young, and tiny. Her husband hated the outfit, said she didn't look 'like herself'. The shop staff did their best to distract him and shut him up. 'My' assistant was still trying hard to find something to further ruin my self esteem.

I thought about how these formal clothes go about making an image. Behind the curtain I could hear an intelligent and successful woman, trying to look tiny. As I waited I looked at what I had on, brightly coloured beads, a fluffy short haircut, green and orange nails, leggings, 80s fluorescent sandals in multicolor, a neon purple watch and leopard print bag, with black leggings and a purple bikini top (worry not, I had shorts and t shirts over this getup, it's just this was what i wore on my dress changing marathon.) when i think about what I look like, these things are 'what I like', symbols of things i value, bright colours, garish prints and funky patterns, things that are loud and fun. why was this woman bringing me floral pastel v necks?

and then it hit me: Gok and his ilk. just as any woman who has ever studied a women's magazine in the summer knows, there are certain 'rules' in clothing that simply must be abided.

Some of these rules I find useful. The idea that as a top heavy lady, I should enlist better support than a teeny triangles halterneck bikini is sound. It is no fun running around on the beach in something that itsy bitsy.

Anyway, here is the advice for my shape, as lifted from the 'Debenhams' website:

Apple-shaped - Apple-shaped bodies are larger on top and smaller below. People with this shape often have a short neck and it is important to make the neck look longer by wearing tops with a v-neckline. Avoid anything figure hugging as this will only draw attention to your waist. Wide legged trousers or flared skirts look great on Apple Shaped bodies.

Now. I follow exactly none of these suggestions. I have utterly fantastic legs. I want them to be free!! You will mostly find me in tights or leggings, a 'figure hugging' miniskirt and a t shirt. with short sleeves. These are also contentious according to the following drivel:

Arms and legs – Arm and legs can be troublesome areas when buying clothes. Take a long hard look at your upper arms. If your upper arms are flabby then wear three-quarter or half-length sleeve shirts and tops this will stop you feeling self-conscious. Long lean legs will suit any style of skirt but if you are unsure what skirt will suit just remember that a skirt should end just above the slimmest part of your leg.

The grammar here is actually worse than mine. Damn those troublesome arms and legs! If only I didn't have to have these stupid troublesome limbs! I actually find my arms and legs to be incredibly useful for buying clothes too. My legs help me to get into the shops, and I use my arms to pick up clothes and try them on. Most clothes accommodate limbs by having strategically placed holes or even tubes to put the limbs into. But once i have taken a long hard look at my flabby upper arms I should really be more self concious and cover up these abominations.

So once I have hidden my arms, and my legs (noooooooooo) the next step is to distract from my non existent neck (ey??) with a V neck, and avoid ANYTHING figure hugging, because seriously, who would want to see a waist like mine? What would that outfit look like exactly? I can only imagine it would have to be a baggy full length, flared out dress with a V-neck. Basically, a sack, with a V-shaped hole in it.

Shop assistant girl has evidently read and memorised such shite. She forgets that perhaps it is not the be all and end all of womens existance to look 'tiny' 'thin' and 'sophisticated'. Why is this the goal? I want to look the size I am, because I am this size and I like it. If I did not, I could resort to surgary, 'lifestyle change' or counselling. But, uh, no. I present the fashion industry with my shape and all I ask in return is that they help me to cover it. I want to look fun, friendly, bright, confident, intelligent. I want to look like I am glowing with the happiness of life, that I am thankful for what I have and comfortable with who I am.

If I were the headmistress of a school, I would like to look formidable, intelligent, amazing, sharp, confident, accomplished. Fabulous. In fact, that's how I want to look now.

As I was being pulled and squeezed into 10s and 12s to the point of being unable to breathe (breathing space seemed to be an optional extra rather than integral to the design of many of the dresses) I wished I was stronger and could tell the whole shop present that I think they have got it wrong and there is much more to style and dresses than looking as small and fragile as possible and that perhaps we had it all wrong but that fight is for another day.

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